This past weekend while England and other leagues around the world were enjoying their fixtures, the Spanish cathedrals of the game sat empty and silent.  Players from La Liga stood together in solidarity to protest the current financial situation gripping their leagues.  For the better part of two years, players from several clubs have not been paid by their clubs.  The current financial situation of the Spanish football leagues is a prime example of how real world policies and business actions are affecting the game we love. 

Over the past few seasons, clubs in Spanish football have been operating while amassing increasingly large amounts of debt.  While operating while incurring debt is commonplace in football, an increasing number of Spanish clubs are entering into administration.  In the top two divisions of Spanish football, 22 of 42 clubs have entered into administration.  While in administration, many clubs choose not to pay their players or pay only a portion of their salaries.  La Liga has offered to pay €10 million into a pool to pay the unpaid wages of players, but the amount of unpaid wages has grown to an estimated €50 million from last season alone. 

In the English Premier League and Football League, any club that enters administration is subject to being deducted points.  This penalty does not exist in Spanish football and as a result teams are allowed to operate at a loss while being promoted to the top flight, as three newly promoted clubs have done this season in La Liga.  Instead of operating as a deterrent as is the case in the English system, the Spanish system allows administration to act as an opportunity for owners to cut costs.  Many owners do this by not paying players or transfer fees, other clubs are left with miniscule travel budgets, while in the case of Hercules they cannot even afford hot water or a proper locker room for players.

While La Liga remains one of the premier domestic leagues in the world, the growing disparity between its top two clubs, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona has become an issue.  Both clubs make in excess of €120 million in domestic television rights, while other clubs receive only a fraction.  Third place finishers, Valencia has been forced to sell players such as David Villa, David Silva, and in the coming days Juan Mata as well as receiving a bailout from the regional government to finance the construction of a new stadium.  Other clubs such as Levante have not paid any transfer fees, acquiring all their players through free transfers. 

Despite the differences of financial safety between their clubs, players from all teams including Real Madrid and Barcelona have agreed to take part in this strike.  They demand that the clubs find a way to pay the players’ lost wages before they return to the field.  While a solution will hopefully come soon, the sustainability of the current Spanish system has been drawn into question.  This strike is giving us the opportunity to ask:  How can a league with clubs operating at a combined €3.5 billion loss continue to function?  What can be done by UEFA and FIFA to correct these problems? Will the growing disparity between two of the world’s most successful clubs doom the rest of the league to financial insolvency? 

Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

In what was one of the biggest matches of the second week of fixtures in the EPL, Tottenham were forced to play without their star midfielder Luka Modric.  Modric who has been at the center of a rumored transfer to Chelsea was sat out as a result of his “head not right.” Manchester United was without their two star center backs Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, leaving both squads at less than full strength.  The first half was a tight affair with both sides earning chances and forcing saves from their respective keepers.

The game would change at the hour mark with Manchester United’s chances increasing, young forward Danny Welbeck found his way onto a Tom Cleverley cross and headed home the game’s opening goal.  However, the best was yet to come from Welbeck.  In the 76th minute Anderson played the ball to Welbeck who returned the pass with a spectacular backheel that left the Brazilian with plenty of space and time to beat Brad Friedel.  Friedel had a solid game for Spurs, making several impressive saves, but as the game went on his defense left him out to dry.  Wayne Rooney capped off the scoring with a header from a Ryan Giggs lofted ball.  United secured the league’s #2 spot with their 3-0 win, while the loss put Tottenham all the way at the bottom of the table.  Extended highlights can be seen here:

No new transfer stories today. I’ll get at those tomorrow.

One bit of news though, John Obi Mikel's father has been freed by his kidnappers.  He has contacted his family and will be reunited with them soon.